SMART Solar Incentive Program Replaces SREC | Connecting Point | Jan. 16, 2019


>>>MASSACHUSETTS RECENTLY
ROLLED OUT A NEW SOLAR INCENTIVE PROGRAM KNOWN AS SMART. DESIGNED TO SUPPORT ANOTHER 1600
MEGAWATTS OF PHOTOVOLTAIC CAPACITY ACROSS THE STATE. WHAT’S THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE FROM
THE PREVIOUS SOLAR RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDITS PROGRAM? HERE’S BILL STILLINGER, CO-OWNER
OF PV SQUARED SOLAR, HAD TO SAY.>>THERE ARE TWO PRINCIPAL
DIFFERENCES. THE SCEC PROGRAM, WHICH IS NOW
DEFUNCT AS OF NOVEMBER 26, PAID THE RESIDENTIAL HOMEOWNER FOR
HIS OR HER SOLAR SYSTEM WITH PAYMENTS STRETCHED OUT OVER 10
YEARS, BUT THE VALUE OF THOSE PAYMENTS WAS DETERMINED BY
MARKET CONDITIONS. SO AT THE TIME THAT THE SOLAR
INSTALLATION WENT IN, THE OWNER DID NOT KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH
INCENTIVE WAS GOING TO COME THEIR WAY. WITH THE NEW SMART PROGRAM, YOU
HAVE CERTAINTY AS TO THOSE 10 YEARS OF PAYMENTS FOR
RESIDENTIAL SYSTEMS.>>ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE
HEAD OF THE PROGRAM TOLD MASSLIVE IS THAT THAT’S ONE OF
THE PRIMARY DRIVING REASONS THE STATE SHIFTED THIS PROGRAM,
WHICH WAS VERY POPULAR ON THE RESIDENTIAL END, THEY HAD TWO
PHASES OF IT THE STATE DIDN’T LIKE THE FACT
THAT IT WAS SO VARIABLE.>>WELL, THAT’S TRUE. THAT’S WHAT COMMISSIONER JUDD
SON HAS SAID. BUT THE SREC PROGRAM LASTED
EIGHT OR NINE YEARS AND RAN VERY WELL. I THINK A LOT OF THE UPDATES ARE
NOW TRYING TO TAKE A BETTER RECOGNITION OF WHAT THE MARKET
REALITIES ARE IN THE COMMONWEALTH.>>YES. IN TERMS OF WHAT THIS MEANS, THE
FLAT FEE TARIFF THAT PEOPLE WILL NOW GET UNDER THE SMART PROGRAM,
DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE OF DOLLARS AND SCENTS ON AVERAGE WHAT THAT
WILL MEAN FOR A RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMER?>>WELL, YOU KNOW, I WOULD MUCH
PREFER TO REMAIN SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE, AND TO SAY THAT THE
PAYMENTS ARE ADMINISTERED UNDER A RATHER COMPLICATED SYSTEM OF
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ENERGY SAVINGS THAT THE HOMEOWNER
REALIZES AND THE INCENTIVE PAYMENT ITSELF. SO —
>>AND IT DEPENDS ALSO, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, ON THE SIZE OF
THE PROJECT AT HAND. SO THERE’S LOTS OF VARIABLES.>>YES, AND THERE’S DIFFERENT
CATEGORIES OF PROJECTS THAT RESIDENTIAL PEOPLE CAN TAKE
ADVANTAGE OF.>>IN TERMS OF SOME OTHER
INSTANCES THAT THIS PROGRAM OFFERS, IT HAS WHAT ARE CALLED
ADDERS FOR THE SOLAR COMMUNITY, INTEGRATE BATTERY STORM AND
INCENTIVES FOR BUILDING ON LAND FILLS, SOME OF THOSE LARGER
DEVELOPMENTS. DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE MORE LAND
FILL, BROWN FIELD SITES BECAUSE OF THE INCENTIVE ATTACHED TO IT?>>WELL, ONE HOPES SO. I THINK THAT THE NEW DIRECTION
THAT I HAVE HEARD THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY RESOURCES WANTS TO
TAKE IN THE FUTURE IS TO EVEN GREATER, PUT GREATER EMPHASIS ON
LAND FILLS AND BROWN FIELD SITES. AND I WOULD ALSO COMMENT THAT
THERE’S A TREMENDOUS DISINCENTIVE OR SUBTRACT FOR,
RATHER THAN AN ADDER, FOR SOLAR DEVELOPERS TRYING TO BUILD A
SOLAR FACILITY ON OPEN LAND OR FOREST LAND, GREENFIELDS, SO TO
SPEAK.>>SO KEEPING FARM, LAND FARMING
LAND, FOR INSTANCE, AND THEN USING THAT OTHER PROPERTY THAT
WILL PROBABLY HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE USE WERE IT NOT FOR
SOLAR.>>THAT’S CORRECT.>>SO FOR YOU, YOU’RE THE FORMER
PRESIDENT OF THE SOLAR ENERGY BUSINESS ASSOCIATION OF NEW
ENGLAND, LONG NAME THERE. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT THIS
CHANGE HAS BEEN RECEIVED BY THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY?>>WELL, IT’S INTERESTING
BECAUSE THERE’S SO MANY DYNAMICS GOING ON. BEFORE ANSWERING THE QUESTION
CORRECTLY, THE BUSINESS CLIMATE HAS CHANGED A GREAT DEAL. YOU THOI ABOUT FEDERAL TARIFFS
AGAINST SOLAR MODULES AND STEEL AND ALUMINUM THAT THE COSTS
NEVERTHELESS, DESPITE THE TARIFFS IN GENERAL ARE GOING
DOWN FOR SOLAR EQUIPMENT. AND WITHIN THAT CONTEXT WE ALSO
SEE THE STATE REDUCING ITS COMPENSATION FOR SOLAR,
SO-CALLED INCENTIVES. I’D RATHER CALL IT COMPENSATION
FOR THE SOLAR GENERATION THAT YOU MAKE. AND SO WITH ALL OF THAT, THE
BUSINESS COMMUNITY HAS BEEN VERY WELCOMING AND SUPPORTIVE, AND
HAS SPENT, GOSH, THE SMART PROGRAM WAS ALMOST THREE YEARS
IN DEVELOPMENT WITH PUBLIC COMMENT AND WE’VE BEEN VERY
ACTIVE TRYING TO INFLUENCE HOW THAT ALL COMES OUT. SO FAR SO GOOD, IT’S BEEN A
MONTH.>>RIGHT, LESS THAN A MONTH
SINCE IT ROLLED OUT. AND TO THAT POINT, WHEN THE
REGULATIONS WERE FINALLY RELEASED OVERALL OF THIS
PROGRAM, ABOUT 15 MONTHS WENT ON BEFORE IT WAS RELEASED AND WE
SAW IT OPEN UP. DO YOU THINK THAT PUT THE
PROGRAM AT A DISADVANTAGE OR PEOPLE AT A DISADVANTAGE, THAT
IT TOOK SO LONG TO GET HERE?>>THE QUICK ANSWER IS YES.>>IN WHAT WAY?>>BECAUSE THERE WAS A LOT OF
PROJECTS JUST WENT ON IMMEDIATE HOLD WAITING FOR THE ROLLOUT OF
THE NEW SMART PROGRAM. I MUST ADMIT TO YOU THE ORIGINAL
DATE FOR THE SMART ROLLOUT WAS GOING TO BE JANUARY 1 OF 2018. WE’VE PASSED THAT TIME. AND IT CAME OUT IN NOVEMBER. AND WHEN THE IMPLEMENTATION
FINALLY HAPPENED ON NOVEMBER 26, OVER 635 MEGAWATTS OF PROJECTS
IMMEDIATELY FILED FOR SO CALLED CERTIFICATES OF ACCEPTANCE. AND WE’RE NOW SIFTING THROUGH
ALL OF THAT TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF THAT PENT UP DEMAND IS
NOW BEING MELT. IF I COULD AMPLIFY ON THAT A
LITTLE BIT, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT SOLAR ENERGY IS LIKE
INEVIDENCE FOOTBALL. IT’S COMING —
IT’S INEVITABLE. IT’S COMING OUR WAY. ALL THE BAD NEWS ABOUT CLIMATE
CHANGE IS REAL. AND I THINK THAT SOLAR ENERGY
PARTICULARLY IS ONE OPTION THAT ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN TAKE
ADVANTAGE OF AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT, AS OPPOSED TO TRYING TO
INFLUENCE FEDERAL AND STATE LAWMAKERS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT
CLIMATE CHANGE, HERE’S SOMETHING THAT IS WITHIN OUR GRASP TO
ACTUALLY BE ACTIVE ABOUT. THAT’S WHY I’M IN THIS BUSINESS
AND WHY I LOVE IT SO MUCH. SO THE REAL ANSWER IS THAT
BUSINESS IS VERY, VERY HAPPY TO BE DOING SOLAR ENERGY, CLEAN
ENERGY GENERALLY, AND WE HOPE IT CONTINUES. WE GET TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY.>>THE COMPANY THAT YOU OWN, PV
SQUARED SOLAR, YOU’RE CO-OWNER, YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY WORKING WITH
RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS ALL THE TIME WHO WANT TO PUT THESE ON
THEIR GARAGES OR WHATEVER IN THEIR YARD. DO YOU THINK THAT THE SMART
PROGRAM IS MORE OR LESS HELPFUL IN GETTING THESE PROJECTS TO THE
MARKET?>>I THINK THAT REMAINS TO BE
SEEN. ONE ASPECT OF THE SMART PROGRAM
IS THAT OUR FRIENDS AT THE UTILITY COMPANIES, THE SO-CALLED
ELECTRIC DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES, TAKE A MUCH MORE ACTIVE ROLE IN
DETERMINING HOW THE PROGRAM OPERATES, BECAUSE IT IS NOW A
FIXED STREAM OF PAYMENTS THIS IS UNDER A REALLY A TARIFF OF THE
UTILITY COMPANY TO PROVIDE THESE PAYMENTS. AND WHILE I REALLY LIKE THE
UTILITY INDUSTRY A LOT, IT HAS PRESENTED SOME DIFFICULTIES DOWN
IN THE DETAILS ABOUT INTERCONNECTION WITH THE GRID
AND OTHER ASPECTS. SO WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION
ABOUT OPERATING SMOOTHLY WITH THE UTILITY COMPANIES, AND WE’VE
TRIED TO DO THAT. MY OWN COMPANY HAS BEEN DOING
THAT FOR OVER 15 YEARS.>>ONE SORT OF $35,000-FOOT
QUESTION FOR YOU HERE THE STATE HAS SAID THAT REALLY
MASSACHUSETTS IS LEADING THE COUNTRY WHEN IT COMES TO THESE
TYPES OF POLICY PROGRAMS THAT ARE INCENTIVIZING SOLAR. DO YOU THINK THAT’S TRUE?>>I THINK IT’S PARTLY TRUE. CALIFORNIA IS MY IDEA OF THE
LEADER, AND NORTH CAROLINA IS RIGHT UP THERE AS WELL. BUT MASSACHUSETTS CAN HOLD ITS
HEAD HIGH, IT’S REALLY DONE A GREAT JOB OF PROVIDING SOLAR,
PUTTING SOLAR IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE, IF YOU WILL.

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